WORKS: Il quarto libro di madrigali, 1596
PERFORMER: La Venexiana
CATALOGUE NO: GCD 920907
The works of Carlo Gesualdo, ‘Prince and Murderer’, have long been noted for their extreme experimental harmonies and approaches to text setting. These days, though, scholars have made us more aware of his debt to other composers working in the Naples area (especially Nenna and Macque), and we are now getting a clearer picture of the development of his style. For these reasons this complete recording of his Fourth Book of Madrigals is timely and fascinating. It was printed just before the emergence of his truly individual style and, with these experienced performers, the melt-down of tradition in these pieces is made vividly audible.
A few of these madrigals have been recorded before (notably by Claritas on the Etcetera label in 1999), but only La Venexiana employs just one singer to a part and a relatively close acoustic. The result in ‘Or che in gioia’ and ‘Io tacerò’ is concise and compelling. Elsewhere the weird harmonies slightly unsettle them (especially in ‘Ecco, morirò’), but these uncertainties are outweighed by the magical sense of drama in ‘Sparge la morte’ and ‘Se chiudite’. This recording allows us to hear Gesualdo afresh and is a worthy addition to the enterprising Venexiana series. Anthony Pryer